Voting With Diebold

Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Today I had my first encounter with the infamous Diebold voting machine. Verdict, not bad. I arrived at the poll, showed my drivers license, signed the register, and got a plastic card to activate the voting machine. Voting was easy, the review screen was nice, and that was that. Bonus, got to see the cute little kids sitting in their classrooms as the poll was in a school.

Potential improvements:

1) The activation card slot wasn't as obvious as it could be. It was on the side and the slot part wasn't colored to make it stand out. I would put it on top of the screen, color it red, and make the card insert vertically. I can also see folks forgetting to take the card out after voting, which is going to keep the poll workers busy. Wonder what happens if you try to vote twice with the same card? I didn't try to find out.

2) The paper tape that holds a record of the vote, the paper trail I suppose, was not easy to read. It also looked to be the fade over time type of tape. I expect a problem will be machines running out of tape or jamming.

Other than that, not bad. All that was lacking was a bottle of purple ink to dip my finger in instead of getting an insipid "I Voted" sticker. Of course, I trusted to the integrity of the software, it's invisibility is probably the biggest potential cause of distrust. That could be fixed by making the paper trail more prominent. An important looking document would be more impressive than something that looks like a grocery receipt under glass.


Rick Ballard said...

I sure agree about the insipid "I voted" stickers. The really terrible thing is that they're all the same. Precinct after precinct. A dedicated voter deserves a little variety.

Knucklehead said...

We now use an touchy-feely electro version of the good ol' mechanical voting booth. (I fully admit I liked those booths!)

It even has some vague approximation of the whirring followed by kachunk! noise of that wonderful old booth. You push little bumps rather than flipping nice levers and when you're done you push a button rather than throwing the Big Lever, and the noise is kinda feeble, and the curtain doesn't open, but it seems OK.

I never did understand how any voting system was protected from tampering if the folks running the vote weren't honest. Plus now that the curtain doesn't open up you could probably get away with banging out another round of votes and pushing the button again (and again?) Poll workers in my neck of the woods are old enough that I don't imagine they hear all that well anymore and they're yacking with one another most of the time anyway.

Seneca the Younger said...

Knuck, you know what's funny is those mechanical booths were just infamous for the ease with which they could be suborned. (A favorite is to preload a vote in the machine so it adds the preload to whatever real votes there may be.) And they don't have an audit trail either.

But, you know --- sometimes I wonder if the reason for the popularity of fancy new-fangled voting systems is the fact that it gives leverage for all the various ways people complain about voting.